Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Holy Week in the 1970s

The 1970s may be what some 40yish-50yish Pinoys would consider as their "Wonder Years". In a Marcosian age, where things were politically hushed up (and there was practically no entertainment whatsoever), Holy Week for us kids meant going to church (more accurately churches) in our sturdy, tank-like Vauxhall (you see we had a Brit car then). This also meant doing the Stations of the Cross.  Our grandparents who remembered the 13 Churches of Old Manila would regale us with tales of how they spent their Holy Week. On Good Friday, we all went to Pasig (which was a town then) and watch the Roman Catholic procession. If it were not proper Roman Catholic catechism from my mom, I would think those Catholic icons were straight out from a Dracula movie! Nonetheless, I always, until now, think parading those giant nails by which Jesus was pinned to the cross is too much for me. But that is Roman Catholic piety!

My family is not 100% Catholic since some family members were Anglicans, Protestants, Baptists and Aglipayans. So during some Holy Week days we would show up as a matter of ecumenical solidarity, at their church services. What I remember most is showing up at a Good Friday Protestant service in Quezon City lead by a Reverend London (who ain't British at all but a Genuine Ilocano!). And since this was 1973 and right after Martial Law, there was a Lenten concert whose musical renditions were subversive! I remember a rendition of Psalm 23 that was really anti-Ferdinand Marcos! The Anglican services are very similar to the Catholic ones with Mom telling me that the only difference between the Catholic and Anglicans were that their priests are allowed to marry!

The Church then was the only place something subversive can be played! During the Marcos years TV wasn't banned but the Dictatorial regime during Holy Week allowed the showing of

The Seven Last Words, naturally! On a fit of being "pilosopo", I did try to count all the words said during the televised service and told my folks that it was much more than Seven!

Cecil B de Mille's "Ten Commandments" and a host of other "biblical" films.

But the censors failed to see that these Hollywood sacramentals have a lot of sexual content. Do you recall that Golden Calf scene in the "Ten Commandments"?

Jesus Christ Superstar: One of the liberalizing results of the Vatican II council is the popularity of "Jesus Christ Superstar". In the 70's my sister played her vinyl on her sofa sized Panasonic stereo when Holy Monday kicked in. This of course irritated my pre-Vatican II Lola (a quintessential church "Manang") who in her last years was trying to make sense of the religious revolution then raging.

My sister and I over all those years have memorized the libretto. To this day I can still sing that campy "Caiphas and Annas" operatic exchange or that "Herod's Song".

"Superstar" was always shown on Good Friday on Channel 9. That is now a lost Good Friday ritual (Whatever happened to Channel 9 anyway?)

Again, the Dictatorial regime failed to sense that JCS is indeed not just heretical but subversive!

Protestant bible show on TV: After we saw the "heretical" re-run of "Superstar", the Church of Hollywood "bible" movie and the orthodox "7 Last Words" we would tune in to Ernest Angley. Now whatever happened to those repent and be saved TV shows?

But on Good Friday, the screen went blank!

Today, people have DVDs, the Internet etc to pass away the penitential days. But when I was growing up, the mere thought of spending Good Friday on the beach is a mortal sin and is heresy!  But I always insisted that there is penance to be done on the hot sand! To which my mother would say that if I really wanted to do penance, then I should join that aunt who has a "panata" of walking barefoot in a pilgrimage in Nueva Ecija, on broiling sand!

Too bad or is too good? The Philippines is rapidly secularizing but then many people remain poor. In many countries, secularism meant an improvement in living standards. Today, people can fly to Boracay for Good Friday or hie off to Baguio. In Baguio at least many people try to put on a religious face and say their quick prayers at Baguio Cathedral, before zooming off to Wright Park. In Boracay, the local government has banned beer for Good Friday. However I was told  by a theologian that beer is one of the few things one can have and not break the Roman Catholic Lenten fast! We can thank the German monks for that!

Perhaps what the Roman Catholic Church should do is to raise Boracay to a diocese (currently there is one small Catholic chapel there) and put a Cathedral there. In Las Vegas, we have the Guardian Angel Cathedral, which Catholic high rollers go to in the morning to 1) Give thanks to the Lord (for a Jackpot), 2) To ask the Lord's forgiveness (for losing all one's money). Tradition dictates they give their unused casino chips during offertory! The best prick to Catholic conscience is a Church spire on an island of sea, sand, booze and sex!

I have stuck to my holy tradition. I make it a point to be in Metro Manila on Good Friday and go to the churches. The city becomes renewed. People are gaga over that "orange" Lenten moon without realizing that the colour is due to the daily sulfuric haze we have here. But isn't it a foretaste of an Environmental Resurrection to see Manila's sky as azure blue? We can only have that when we commemorate the Lord's sacrifice and Resurrection!

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